The Apple logo is being displayed on a glass window with outlines of a dragon and iPhones in gold.

Photo: Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Samsung may be about to launch a flagship Galaxy model with built-in voice translation and a robust suite of AI features, but looking back to 2023 shows that the company will need a lot of excitement to hit the biggest sales goal of all. Apple has secured the top spot in the global smartphone rankings, with Samsung in second place for the first time since 2010, according to International Data Corp.’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report.

IDC’s numbers show that Apple shipped nearly 235 million units last year, to Samsung’s 227 million. The former is up 3.7% from 2022, the latter down 13.6%. Among the top five smartphone makers, Chinese players Xiaomi and Oppo saw fewer shipments too, but Transsion, also based in China, shipped nearly 31% more units than in 2022 (though its market share globally is just 8%).

“Apple’s ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team, in a news release.

Mobile phone growth stuck, unstuck

Samsung expected things to slow down last year, blaming in advance a combination of stubborn inflation, higher interest rates, and geopolitical turmoil. And it was right: IDC reports that global smartphone shipments were down 3.2%, to just under 1.2 billion units, the fewest in a decade.

But Samsung and IDC both predict that 2024 will be a better year. The Korean electronics giant is looking forward to double-digit growth for its fanciest phones, and IDC said that smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of last year were already accelerating—up 8.6% worldwide.

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